When Torontoist reader Maya Friedman posed the question, “If Torontoist were to get married (on a budget) where would the wedding be?” it got us thinking. Not only about where we’d get married, but how we’d do the rest on the cheap, too. Because if you’re like us, you feel a little sick when you’re watching Rich Bride, Poor Bride and the couple announces, “We spent $43,851 on our special day!”
The actual ceremony is easy to do on a budget—it’s the reception, especially the food, that really gets you. The key is to find stealthy ways to save in all the areas of your wedding planning.
The cheapest place for the actual ceremony is City Hall at $180 plus GST (that doesn’t include the $130 licence fee). If you want to go the traditional church route, that will run you a few hundred dollars. At Kinbourne Park United Church, for example, the total fee is $600, which includes the church, church staff, minister, and music, but they’ll also do smaller weddings that cater to a smaller budget.
If a church isn’t your thing, you can hire a minister ($250 at Kinbourne Park) to come to your off-site location. Some city parks allow wedding ceremonies, with permits ranging between $80 and $200 an hour. One consideration is that you’ll have to rent chairs. The cheapest type are plain folding chairs, which can be rented for as little as $1.50 each. If you want to cut out the permit fee, try finding someone with a lovely backyard. This way you have the potential to hold the reception there as well, whereas a park or church wedding would require a separate reception venue.
As for the reception, the cost varies greatly depending on many factors. Fewer guests, obviously, will cost less. If you don’t want to compromise on the number of guests, consider having a cocktail reception with hors d’oeuvres instead of a full sit-down dinner. One thing to keep in mind when booking a reception venue is that some places will only let you work with a certain list of caterers. If you want to be able to search out a budget-priced caterer, make sure you find a reception venue that will let you choose the caterer. Bridal shop owner Rosanna Rose suggests getting married on a Friday or Sunday, since some venues will offer a discount for these non-peak days.
Now for some tips on the non-venue aspects weddings. First, the dress. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to spend gazillions of dollars buying a dress you’re going to wear for one day. If you don’t care about having your dress as a keepsake after the wedding is over, dress rental is an excellent option. Gown Go Round, located just north of Newmarket, offers dress rentals and sells mint-condition used dresses, as well. Their current stock includes a dress by Canadian designer Justina McCaffrey for $600—brand new, McCaffrey’s dresses run in the thousands. Best For Bride, at Bathurst and Sheppard, also rents dresses. Grooms rent their outfits, so why can’t brides do they same?
Flowers are another huge expense. Many flowers, including perennially popular roses, cost at least $5 per stem. With bouquets, boutonnieres, ceremony arrangements, and table centrepieces, that adds up quickly. If you’re feeling adventurous and creative, you may want to try doing the centrepieces yourself (leave the bouquet to a trained professional). The drive to Kitchener-Waterloo is worth the money you can save by buying flowers at either the St. Jacob’s or Kitchener farmers’ markets. This writer once decked the tables of a gala dinner in roses for $100 with flowers from St. Jacob’s—a bargain compared to the price of pre-made centrepieces. Simple arrangements, like the one pictured, are classic and easy to do yourself. Buy some practice flowers ahead of time—you’ll still save a ton of money.
In a similar vein, find talented people who are willing to help out. Get a culinary whiz friend to make the food. Instead of hiring a regular photographer, find a photography student who needs wedding photos for their portfolio. You get cheaper photos and they get a much-needed reference. This writer’s parents had a friend do the food; neighbours did the flowers and dress.
Most importantly, think outside the box and don’t get caught up in the “wedding industrial complex.” Do you really need to spend $3000 on invitations when $200 invitations will still result in you having guests at your wedding? Why rent a limo when a bike will do?
Bike photo by defenestr8tor. Flower photo by ~Lady M.